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The Connectome: structure, function and evolution

Speaker: Professor Yaniv Assaf, The George S. Wise Life Sciences Faculty, Tel Aviv University.

Professor Yaniv Assaf joined Tel Aviv University in 2004. After completing his BSc, MSc and PhD degrees at TAU, he pursued a joint post-doctorate fellowship at the Tel Aviv-Sourasky Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). During this time, he specialised in MRI research, developing new analysis tools that enhance MRI use and implementing new techniques for assessing tissue damage in a range of diseases. Since joining TAU, at the department of Neurobiology, he has focused on developing MRI techniques and analysis frameworks that will enable indirect measurement of micron and nano scales structures through low resolution MRI. The main hypothesis behind his lab's research is that brain morphology and brain function are linked. The morphological finger print of the tissue should resemble its functional one, thus if one can develop tools for in-vivo detection of microscopic tissue features, it might be a good tool for studying morphological changes induced by brain plasticity and other functional aspects of the brain.

Under this topic Professor Assaf's group focuses on extracting micron scale structures of both white and grey matter in animals as well as in the human brain. This is done with the aim of enhancing the information extracted from MRI beyond the resolution limitation of the millimeter scale. In particular current research in the group includes the characterization of the assembly of neuronal networks to produce micron and sub-micron fiber bundles that transmit electrical conductance throughout the brain and the local arrangement of cellular structures in the cortical grey matter layers and their relation to the functional anatomy of the human brain. To that end they combine these methods with electrophysiological and functional measures. In addition, Professor Assaf’s group use these novel methods as well as conventional routines to study brain structural plasticity in health and disease. Recent works have focused on understand the long and short term structural plasticity following spatial memory tasks (water maze in rat and car racing game in humans). In addition they study the abnormal structural correlates in mice and humans that carry the ApoE4 allele (risk factor of Alzheimer's disease).

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